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DE FILIPPIE v. WATERMAN S.S. CORP.

October 25, 1956

Anofrio D. DE FILIPPIE
v.
WATERMAN STEAMSHIP CORPORATION



The opinion of the court was delivered by: KRAFT

This is a suit in admiralty by a merchant seaman to recover from the owner of the vessel on which he was employed for personal injuries sustained while engaged in the performance of his duties aboard the vessel. The libellant claims that the owner failed to provide him with a safe place to work in that a short hatchboard tilted, causing him to fall into the hatch to the deck below. The owner denies this and asserts that libellant carelessly jumped or stepped backwards from the top of an abutting guard rail into an opening in the hatch cover of which libellant was aware. From the conflicting evidence presented the court makes the following Findings of Fact

1. Waterman Steamship Corporation, respondent, is an Alabama corporation which, at the time here material, owned, operated and controlled the vessel S.S. Yaka.

 2. The S.S. Yaka, at the time here material, was engaged in intercoastal commerce.

 3. The libellant, Anofrio D. De Filippie, is an American citizen who, at the time of his injury, was 44 years of age. Since 1943 he had been and was, at the time here material, a merchant seaman in the United States Merchant Marine.

 4. On or about June 25, 1952, libellant signed articles for an intercoastal voyage as deck engineer in the crew of the S.S. Yaka at $ 329.50 per month plus overtime, found, bonus and allowance.

 5. On August 3, 1952, about 3:50 P.M. while the S.S. Yaka was proceeding in calm water up the Willamette River en route to Portland, Oregon, the libellant sustained severe leg injuries in a fall to the No. 4 tween-decks.

 6. Abutting the after coaming of the vessel's No. 4 hatch was a guard rail of angle steel so constructed that the upper surfaces of its two horizontal rails were flat and approximately three inches wide. The distance from the top of the hatch cover of the after section of No. 4 hatch to the top of the guard rail was about 22 inches.

 7. Slightly below the level of No. 4 hatch cover and immediately aft of the guard rail at the after end of No. 4 hatch was a winch platform on which were located port and starboard steam winches with appurtenant controls and enclosed steam pipes.

 8. Directly above this winch platform was another platform (hereafter called upper control platform) so constructed that its forward end was flush with the guard rail upon the top rail of which rested the two forward vertical supports of the upper control platform. This platform was also equipped with a guard rail.

 9. On the upper control platform were the respective controls and valves for the operation from that platform of the two steam winches on the platform below.

 10. The steam valves on the upper control platform projected two or three inches above the floor. One valve was on the starboard and the other on the port side of this platform, each being 8 to 12 inches aft of the forward edge of the platform. The related controls were a few inches aft of the respective valves.

 11. The distance from the top guard rail to the floor of the upper control platform was between three and four feet.

 12. A stair or ladder at the forward end of No. 5 hatch afforded a means of safe access to the upper control platform.

 13. About 1 P.M. on August 3, 1952, the hatch cover of the after section of No. 4 hatch was exposed by removal of the cleats and three tarpaulins. Next two hatchboards, each 9 ft. 5 in. long, 20 in. wide and 3 in. think, were removed from approximately the center of the after section of No. 4 hatch to give a crew gang access to the ladder in the center of the after coaming of that hatch section to enable them to descend to the No. 4 tween-decks and thence to No. 4 hold which they were to clean. One removed hatchboard was placed on top of the hatchboard ...


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